Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkey was at fault over the unity talks collapse, adding that international drilling for oil and gas off the coast will go on despite threats from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Anastasiades said the negotiations fell apart over Turkey’s insistence on keeping a 35,000-strong army on the island divided by an unlawful 1974 invasion and said United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide was spectacularly unfit to be a broker at the talks at a Swiss resort.
Anastasiades earlier said the Norwegian diplomat was taking the side of Turkey during almost two years of talks that began with soaring optimism before crashing and burning when the Cypriot President couldn’t come to terms with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
Anastasiades said that Eide was basically being deluded and brought UN chief Antonio Guterres into the talks without adequate preparation.
“I think he was acting in good faith, but he had the failing of believing that what he wanted to happen was happening,” Anastasiades said of Eide. “He had the impression that everything was almost solved,” he added. “That’s the sense he gave out and I warned him about it.”
Turkey also wanted the right to militarily intervene when it wanted as a guarantor of security on the island, along with Greek and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still keeps a military base there.
After the debacle, Greece also blamed Turkey and said Erdogan was playing a game with no intention of unity because he wanted to keep an army on the island and would demand – as he has – any share of oil and gas finds off Cypriot waters, a catalyst envoys, diplomats, politicians and negotiators said was reason for believing a solution was coming.
Erdogan has sent a warship off Cyprus – even as France, backing is major energy company Total which is one of the companies licensed to drill – has sent two warships. The Turkish President warned of unspecified consequences of the drilling goes on.
Noting that the collapse of peace talks had provoked both “disappointment” and “concern” about Turkey’s intentions, Anastasiades said the priority now was to “remain calm and avoid stoking tensions.”
“This obsessive dependence on Turkey is the biggest concern to the Greek Cypriots,” he said even as Turkish-Cypriots wanted their army to stay in violation of international law, as it has for 43 years with impunity.
Anastasiades said he had pushed for creation of a state that would be independent of the influence of Turkey and would abolish all foreign guarantees as Cyprus is a member of the European Union, part of whose territory is being occupied by a foreign power.
He didn’t rule out yet another attempt to resurrect the talks but said it wouldn’t be soon as he faces a re-election contest next year and with acrimony on all sides, he said.
“There has to be a period of introspection and rational assessment of the facts so we can decide which initiatives could form the basis for a new activation at the UN level,” he said.
As for drilling for hydrocarbons off Cyprus, which the French-Italian energy consortium of Total and Eni started in the middle of last week, Anastasiades indicated that the drilling would continue, despite Turkish objections.
“Our energy plans have not changed,” he said. “It is a right that is being exercised by the Republic of Cyprus which requires neither advertising nor provocation.”
He said Turkey’s disputing of the sovereignty of Cyprus and of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “are well known,” Anastasiades said Nicosia has taken “a series of preventive measures.”
“I don’t mean combative measures, but there are legal measures, international organizations and the Law of the Sea, which determine the rights of each state,” he said.
Turkey refuses to recognize Cyprus even while harboring hopes of joining the EU and bars its ships and planes.